Story of Olde
I have told this story around many an
evening fire -- with a dozen magical effects
to enhance the story.
Truely, I am a performing magician too.
Black and White
While Thrasa had many sons she had only one daughter, the graceful Giselda, nicknamed Idawas because of her headstrong nature. She had many aspiring suitors but also enjoyed the protection of her brothers during the absence of Aldebern, now a General in Charlamagne's army. One unknown suitor was Gariwald, son of Prince Eberwolf of Bohemia across the Odra River to the east.
It happens that Thrasa and the Prince were at odds over the price of the just delivered flour. Within the Duchy of Sachen the going miller fee was one part in five. The Prince claimed that one part in six was standard in the eastern lands, and that Aldic had agreed to this price. Thrasa knew that the good Baron would never have readily agreed to such a fee, but also knew he might have failed to negotiate the best deal, such being his trusting nature. For Thrasa, the actual price was not as important as not being bested by the Prince in a trade, such being her nature. So they haggled good naturedly back and forth while Gariwald made puppy eyes at Giselda across the room.
At length the Prince said, "I propose a wager to settle this matter. I will offer you a fair and equal chance, a hidden choice guided by providence and luck. If you win you can have your one in five and a contract for all my milling needs for two years. If thee should lose, however, then one in six is our new fee - and (he paused) you will accept the betrothal of my Gariwald to Giselda!"
This proposal was unexpected and surprising. While the joining of their two lands would have certain advantages she would henceforth have to deal with the Prince on a regular basis and did not trust his greed and ambitions. On the other hand, the tractable Giselda, while beauteous, might not have a better opportunity. Still, she rebelled against such a planned and connived marriage.
"The stakes hardly seem balanced, my Lord," she replied. "Gariwald hardly seems an ideal husband if he needs you to speak for him, or should I say - manage? So I will accept this wager on the additional consideration that should I win, you will assign your son to our court as squire for a year. He can learn arms and tactics from Aldebern and manners and independence from me. At any rate, he will be out from under thumb for a time and might grow into a man! Besides which, he will be able to spend time with Giselda and perhaps nature can provide what you would do by guile. I cannot commit my daughter, a Princess in own right, to a marriage against her will. However, if I should lose this silly wager, I commit to support his cast as suitor and help sell his qualities and advantages above all others."
The Prince stood erect and obviously bristled at the challenge. He was not accustomed to being spoke to thusly, and certainly not by a woman with the effrontery to wear a sword in his presence. So he said to the nobles present rather than to her, "Well met, my Lady. I will grant that this horse-trading be entertainment for my guests and thereby beyond petty personality. Here then is the wager." He produced two small velvet purses, one red and the other blue. He bent down and gathered two stones from the pathway beneath their feet, one being white and the other black. He continued, "Behind my back at random choice, I will place a stone in each bag and draw the strings. Neither of us will know which contains the color of choice, back or white, red or blue. Upon your selection we will see the result. If thee choose the white stone then you will win the wager and with it the fee and service of my son. If thee choose black, then the better price is mine and we will discuss the marriage plans." So saying, he played around behind his back and held forth the two purses.
Now Thrasa could not back out of the wager in front of the gathered nobles but trusted the Prince not at all. Instinct told her that he had somehow manipulated the stones and that there was now a treacherous black stone in each. No matter how she chose she would lose! Then, in fierce defiance, she grabbed the red bag and pulled it open. In her haste she dumped the contents upon the ground where it mixed with the other black and white stones. "Dear me!" She exclaimed, how clumsy. But it is of no matter. We can all examine the contents of your purse, my Prince, and discover the treasure in holds. Be it white then my stone must have been black. Be it black, then surely mine must have been white."
The prince stood quietly with slightly furrowed brow and, if truth be known, slightly pinkish ears. Presently he laughed a boisterous call and bowed low. He handed her the blue purse and said, "Twas a test, my fair warrior. I am soon to receive a shipment of silk and treasures from the far east and am in need of an agent to sell these wares in the lands of Sachen. I would give thee your one in five on these goods and your flour if you would accept. We will let the stone guide Gariwald's fate if we must."
"So shall it be my Lord," she committed. But someone will have to guard this shipment to my gates and I suggest that Gariwald be spared for the task. He can spend a fortnight and, by your leave, choose for himself to enter training for a year, and a marriage might yet be in the offing." She held up her palm where all could see the knife scar there. "Some contracts are sealed in blood. Others by the words of two men. But in our situation, my Lord, I would suggest that you call forth a scribe whereby our contract can be put down - in black and white!"
So it came to be in pledge and honor and the blue pouch hangs on Thrasa's wall as a symbol, unopened to this day!